Serial Fiction, Chapter 5: Better Now

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Photo and graphic by Shielagh, copyrighted 2017.

She sat on the beach, a few feet from the water where the sand was dry, watching the waves as they slid in and out, their swish and sizzle setting a soothing rhythm. Being down here was so wonderful. Staying with Gramma was a little weird with all the old people she hung out with, but feeling safe was worth it.

Michelle hugged her knees to her in the cool morning air. She came here a lot, mostly because Gramma could see her from the big picture windows of the apartment. In a way it felt she wasn’t trusted, or like being treated like a kid, but she knew it was because Gramma cared enough to keep her in view. She had her cellphone on her all the time, and Gramma would call her when she wanted her to come home. She figured, too, that if Gramma ever saw someone unsafe nearby, she’d call her, and if, God forbid, anyone tried to hurt her, she’d call 911 in a heartbeat.

Besides, she knew she was helping Gramma just by being there, because her grandfather had died a few years ago, and now Gramma had lost her son. It must be hard, Michelle, thought, and she was glad she could help Gramma too somehow.

The last few months had been a blur. Amanda had told her mom that Michelle’s mom’s boyfriend had been “inappropriate.” The first night she spent over there was one she knew she’d never forget.

“Let’s call your mom now,” Amanda’s mom had said, and Michelle got on the extension so she could listen. After a couple of moments of small talk, Amanda’s mom, Gloria, had told Michelle’s mom, “Michelle isn’t safe at your house, Donna. Your boyfriend has been touching her, and you have to do something. Get him out of there, and report him to the authorities.

“You little liar!” her mom had screamed. “You’re just making that up! He wouldn’t do anything like that!”

Michelle had sobbed, “It’s true! He comes in my room!”

“I don’t believe you,” her mother had said in a weird, quieter voice.

Gloria had spoken to her mom calmly and clearly, continuing to say that the creep had to go, or Michelle would be staying at her house. It had only gotten worse. Her mom had shoved her clothes into a couple of black garbage bags and dumped them on Amanda’s front lawn the next day. Thank God she’d taken most of her personal stuff and school books to her locker and had the rest in her backpack. Looking back, she began to feel as if she’d known she’d be getting out of there fast.

Gloria had helped Michelle tell the police what had been happening. The policewoman who came over had been really nice. She took a lot of notes, and she said a social worker would come see her, too. That had been okay. By then she’d told Amanda and her mom, the police and now this nice lady who reminded her of her English teacher, and the more she told it, the easier it was, especially when they all seemed to believe her.

“We need to find a better place for you to live. I’m sure you can’t stay here at your friend’s house indefinitely,” she’d said, looking at Gloria. Gloria had said that Michelle was welcome as long as she needed to stay, but they’d talked about a lot of other things, and it was decided that staying with her dad’s mom, her Gramma, in Florida, was the best thing, and the social worker had called Gramma right then.

“Oh, baby! I am so sorry!” Gramma had said, and in a few minutes, it was all arranged. The next week she’d flown down to Florida and in a few days was registered in a school with a lot of smart and creative kids. Gramma had been a teacher and she knew all about the Sunshine Academy. A friend of hers had taught there and she said they even had a school psychologist that kids could go see for free if they had problems. “It’ll be good for you to talk to someone,” Gramma had said.

So here she was, on a beach in the morning before school, mentally tossing her problems into the water as her therapist had suggested. Math test, sadness over not seeing Timmy anymore, not even getting to talk to him because her mom wouldn’t let him, missing Amanda and other friends, and some of the boys. The creep was gone. He’d gone to jail for a little while, but Gramma said his lawyer had gotten him out, and he could stay out as long as he went into counseling and did community service, but he wasn’t allowed to be near kids. Her mom said she would never forgive her for this. Michelle didn’t care. Not really. Like her therapist said, it was complicated. Mom had problems she needed to work out. A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away with her sleeve. Yeah, she cared.

She watched the seagulls wheel overhead, mewing like cats. A big brown pelican suddenly swooped down and scooped up something in its bill. Probably a fish.

Her phone pinged and she looked at it. “Time to come up and get ready for school,” was Gramma’s text. She got to her feet and brushed off the sand. She realized she really did feel better now.

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For the Daily Post

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 16

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The Sixteens above commemorate The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign: “A campaign in honour of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence while raising funds for the cause to end Violence Against Women.” Definitely worth it.

Ready for some diversion? Here’s what I’ve got for you this week. You’re worth it!

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Putting ourselves first is often wisest, especially when wishing to help others.  As we hear from a flight attendant on every airline flight, we must put the oxygen mask over our own nose and mouth before assisting our children or others around us. So when we neglect our own needs in the service of others, we will not be able to do it for long. We must refill our own cup if we wish to share generously with others. Here’s a good piece by Marc and Angel: An Open Letter to Those who Always Put Themselves Last. You’re worth it!

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Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane prefecture, Japan
日本語: 足立美術館。所在地は島根県安来市

One thing we must do for ourselves is cope as well as we can with stress. Avoiding stress is impossible, but drowning in it is usually avoidable. What can we do to minimize stress so it is less toxic and destructive to our lives and those who care about us and those who may need our help? We’re all worth it.

  • Breathe deeply and mindfully to reduce anxiety; it works!
  • Eat nutritiously and regularly; starvation is no virtue.
  • Sleep at least 6 hours every night, but no more than 8 is best.
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week and walk on the other days.
  • Practice your spiritual or religious beliefs sincerely and often.
  • Meditate, do yoga, pray or seek peace and beauty, as in the zen garden above.
  • Live your values, which means understanding what they are.
  • Give and receive love, affection and kindness freely.
  • Seek help for your own problems: therapy, medical treatment or expert advice.
  • Consider adopting a pet if your circumstances permit; they enrich our lives.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (most is), pick your battles and put down the bat.

Moses Sumney is a recent musical discovery of mine, thanks to a video in a GQ article about Brad Pitt. The article is good, and Moses Sumney is definely “Worth It.”

Namasté

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Community & Friendship’s Delight

Are you a member of a community? We belong to several and are very grateful for them. Quincy Square, Pinecrest, Friends of Bill W, and more. Here is a glimpse into a wonderful, warm, community I would love to join, if I were close by. But then, perhaps I already am….

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delighted sitting Buddhas ~d nelson

Dear WordPress Community, and Friends on the path,

So easily mind goes here, then goes there.
The mind can go in a thousand directions
including thinking that it’s alone.
But, with mindfulness, concentration & insight
we can remember the path upon which we’re stepping.
On this path are also countless beings supporting us,
at this moment, some of them are of the human-type.

delightfully recycling, together in Deer Park

I’m reminded of so many elders and others
who are isolated and feeling lonely right now.
They wish so much to be with other human beings.
I’ve had these feelings arise, myself
and I’m only almost an elder.
Perhaps you’ve longed for human companionship, also.

delightful flower

I’m offering a bow of gratitude for all the friends who came
joyfully together on retreat with me recently.
It felt very comforting, connected and safe to be vulnerable…

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 9

 

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This week has brought the usual ups and downs, plus a deep down or two. Friends and family haves lost loved ones to death, and others have disappeared off the radar screen. Hearts are hurting. This tune by Holly Macve taps into that feeling, even if the words are rather dark and troubling.

But the sun has continued to shine and the birds have pursued their true loves with raucous and reckless abandon. We’ve seen and heard the noisy mating dances this week of boat-tailed grackles, graceful tricolored herons, and mockingbirds. Ah, Spring!

One of our downs: The post office misplaced the overnight mailer we sent to the accountant with all the tax documents. But we were able to speak to the postmaster who found it, with no idea why it was never delivered nor why it hadn’t been sent back to us. It was delivered that very day. So a down followed by a giddy up!

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Image courtesy of Dustin’ Shelves

Couldn’t resist that one!

Political highs and lows abound. The crazy continues but keeps running into roadblocks, thanks to highly principled jurists,  determined public servants and indefatigable civil rights advocates.

Some deserve more diversions than others, and all my followers and friends certainly do!

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Searching for ways to become more emotionally strong? Eric Barker provides some useful questions to ask ourselves, ups and downs notwithstanding. I’ve shared this with clients this week.

Hawaiian musician Kalani Pe’a provides the gentle swaying of this week’s closing number. You might find yourself transported to a beautiful Hawaiian island, kissed by the sun and gentle breeze and tantalized by the scent of its flowers as you listen.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 8

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So how was your week?

Here in SW Florida we’ve been experiencing close proximity to a brushfire that devastated 7500 acres of pine scrub and palmettos and created a huge, mushrooming column of choking smoke that hung about for days. Only four rural structures were destroyed, and thankfully no one was hurt, but that smoke was epic. Here’s what we saw from our driveway on Tuesday.

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Collier County brushfire 3/7/17

The Collier County fire paled by comparison to the conflagration in Washington DC spawned by hot air, smoke and mirrors, hubris, hypocrisy, and paranoia. And, no, it isn’t the same on both sides.

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Photo courtesy of Travel Wires

Now for your diversions. Column of impressive smoke, you say? Italians can claim the prize, produced by Mount Etna this month.

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After all these fiery natural phenomena and irrational political bombast, I needed some good news. A man lost his beloved parrot. Thanks to an implanted ID chip, the parrot was found years later and reunited with his owner. You’ll have to read this to learn the change the parrot exhibited upon his return.

 

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Here’s another feel good diversion. When her dad wouldn’t do it, a business leader walked a lesbian bride down the aisle.

And I wouldn’t leave you without some good music. My cousin from Knoxville, Tennessee shared one of her favorite artists with me this weekend when she and her sister came for a fun visit. Here is Amos Lee and “Southern Girl.”

 

Namasté

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Blur: Serial Fiction, Part 4

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“I want a drink of water!” said a little voice by the door and her mom’s boyfriend Bill pulled back his hand and jumped up from the side of the bed in a flash. “G’night, Michelle” he muttered and went out to help Tommy with his drink.

Thank god for little brothers, she thought, switching on the bedside lamp and rushing to shut the door. It wouldn’t help to lock it because the lock could be popped easily with one of those funny little keys in the junk drawer, or even an unbent paper clip.

The last few weeks had been a blur–hospital, funeral, relatives, refrigerator overflowing with food from strangers, missing school then throwing herself into schoolwork to miss the drama, and now dealing with Bill who was one weird dude. Kissed her on the lips when she said goodnight to them a few nights ago, hand on her shoulder, huge eye contact. He kept saying she should be a model, but then he was a freelance photographer. Or so he said.

What was with her mom anyway? Ever since Tommy was born she’d been like a different person. She’d pushed her dad away with yelling and crying and acting crazy until he left, and in the three years since she’d brought home a parade of guys. Bill was just the latest loser to walk through the front door and appear at breakfast after a few so-called dates.

She pushed her dresser in front of her door. It would probably fall over if he could push the door open, but at least she could wake up and get out of bed. She searched her room for a potential weapon if he ever ambushed her like that again. She picked up a big Mickey Mouse figurine from a trip to Disney World. It was made of heavy resin and she loved it dearly. Her dad had bought it for her before the word divorce had ever been spoken in her presence. It would hurt if she had to hit somebody with it. She moved it from the dresser to her night table.

She grabbed her cellphone and texted her friend Amanda. Maybe she could go over there after school and then spend the night. She tapped out a quick question and got an enthusiastic answer back immediately. So that was settled. Amanda would ask her mom and tell her in the morning, and she’d wait to text her mom at work. It was easier than dealing with her face to face. She stuffed a clean t-shirt and underwear in her backpack and started to feel better.

Sleep was nowhere to be found, no matter how long she lay in the bed, so finally she moved the dresser, listened in the hallway for sounds of life but heard nothing, and walked quietly into the kitchen. She found an opened package of Oreos. She was about to stuff some into the pocket of her robe, but thought better if it when she saw there was another unopened package behind it. So she took the whole opened package and hurried back with it to her room. After putting it in a drawer of her night table, she went back in and got a can of Diet Coke, just as her mom opened her door and walked into the kitchen.

“Michelle? Can’t sleep?”

“I was thirsty,” she said, grateful to have stashed the cookies already. Not that her mom would care if she ate them but she wanted to eat them in private. Her mom would probably pull out the milk and want to sit down with her for a late night snack and a talk.

“Well, okay, but at least take a caffeine-free can, so you can get to sleep.”

“Sure,” she said as she switched the can, and mumbling “goodnight,” she hurried back to her room before a conversation could start. That mother-daughter talk might be okay later, but tonight she wanted to keep her thoughts and feelings about her mom’s creepy boyfriend to herself. Her outrage smoldered white hot, and it made her feel strong. She wanted to keep it and nurture it and use it when the time was right.

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For the Daily Post

Lush

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Artist unknown, courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

“How was school today, Michelle?” Her mom was dishing up her casserole of the day as she spoke.

“That’s too much!”

“You need to eat enough or you’ll lose more weight.” Her face scrunched up as she extended the plate across the table.

“You can’t make me eat more than I want!” She took it but had no intention of stuffing herself. She didn’t even like her mom’s cooking. Mushy dishes of overcooked pasta with some kind of cheese on top.

“You used to love my tuna-noodle surprise!” Her little brother Tommy giggled and said, “Sa-prise!”

“Whatever!” She poked at the heap with her fork and began picking out the peas and putting them into her mouth one by one.

“Young lady, don’t be rude to your mother!” Bill glared at her. She studiously avoided his gaze and kept her face a mask. He was a jerk. She didn’t know what her mom saw in him. She wanted to yell at him to leave her the fuck alone, but that would make him look at her with his creepy smile.

“Bill, remember what I said.” Her mom looked at him, darting her eyes away from the table. Trying to play peacemaker, probably. Why was this guy over here all the time anyway? She knew he was staying over nights but they always acted as if he’d stopped by for breakfast early in the morning. In the same clothes, riiight!

She pushed the food around, nibbled at the pieces of tuna she could separate out from the goop and noodles. When her mom and Bill got into a heated discussion about how he had no right to discipline her kids, she slipped out of her chair and using her paper napkin, in one quick motion swept the food into the garbage.

Sitting on her bed doing homework she felt at peace for the first time since she got home. The girls she knew said they hated homework, but she loved getting lost in the books, in the math problems, the history lessons, the American and English literature and the science. She also loved the A’s. Her good grades were something that belonged to her and not to anyone else.

She heard Tommy having his bath down the hall, Mom playing with him with bath toys while trying to clean behind his ears. Michelle gave him his bath sometimes. It was okay. If Bill ever volunteered to help him, she’d quickly volunteer and do it before he could get into the small bathroom. She thought maybe he was probably a perv.

They were reading Huckleberry Finn in English right now, and she loved the adventures he had on the river. Where were his people who should have watched after him? He could just take off and no one even looked for him. She thought this might be nice. She knew that there were a lot of bad people out there, though, and runaways who went to New York often ended up turning tricks for some skeevy pimp just to have a meal and somewhere to sleep.

The house was quiet now and she yawned. A quick trip to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth and she got into bed. She turned out the light and lay there trying to let go of her worries about the family. Even though her parents had divorced last year, her dad had always been there. She could call him, and every other weekend she’d stayed at his apartment and they’d done fun stuff like going to museums or shopping or to the movies. Now he was gone, dead and buried just a few weeks ago, and she wondered what was her life going to be like.

There was a creak in the hall and she sat up, listening intently. She saw the dark form of Bill in her doorway and get larger as he came in.

“I just came in to say goodnight, and tell you I’m sorry I told you off at the table.” He sat on the bed. “I want your mom to be okay, and her life is hard right now.”

She shrank to the other side of the bed, not wanting to say anything and wishing he’d just go.

Then she felt him touch her hair and heard him whisper, “Your curls are so…lush.”img_0116

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For the Daily Post